Responses to some questions from Uplands residents on the Socialist Party and why I'm a socialist. Ronnie Job
Q: In a time where more and more people are asking for social and economic justice from their politicians and government, why do you think socialism is still one of the least followed political causes?
A: I don’t agree that socialism doesn’t have much of a following. The crisis of the capitalist markets has shaken the belief of lots of people in the future for themselves and their children. This is the first generation in Britain that expects to have a lower standard of living than their parents. The subsequent questioning has been behind our successes in Ireland where we now have 3 TDs (MPs). Everywhere people are looking around for an alternative way of organising society. Even in the belly of the capitalist beast (the USA) socialism is on the march. The election of Socialist Alternative (co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in the States) Council member, Kshama Sawant in Seattle, with over 93,000 votes has sent shock waves across America. The biggest obstacle perhaps to people calling themselves socialist in Britain/Europe is the existence of so-called Labour or Socialist parties whose claims to be socialist while inflicting huge cuts and creating confusion. But where a clear and relevant socialist programme is put across it gets an echo and support, which although not necessarily translated into votes everywhere at this stage, gives socialists reason to be confident for the future.
A: There are a couple of things that are relevant. Firstly there is the confidence in our ideas. Socialist Party members constantly debate and discuss and test our ideas in the trade unions, in elections, in our communities, refining them until we are confident in their correctness. Then we are not professional politicians after a career or playing at politics. We are just ordinary people who want to see a better life for our children, our workmates, communities and class. We have a principled position of being workers’ representatives on a workers’ wage. We think it’s important that workers’ representatives do not become divorced from the people they represent by taking home inflated salaries. Even at a local council level, I think it’s ridiculous that councillors get a basic allowance of £13,000+ (more than some of my union members earn for full-time jobs). If elected, I would take only genuine expenses, donating the rest to campaigns and the movement. There are no lucrative careers to be had in the Socialist Party so we don’t get flighty careerists.
Q: How do you believe the Socialist Party can take their grassroots activities to a national stage to compete with major political parties? What benefit does forming a coalition with the Trade Unions provide you and the Socialist Party locally?
A: The Socialist Party has played and will continue to play a pivotal part on a national and international stage but we are about much more than elections. In the past, when we were the Militant Tendency, we had 3 Labour MPs, we were a leading part in the battle of Liverpool Council with Thatcher’s government, where we translated socialism into the language of 5,000 new homes, community centres, nurseries and sports centres, resulting in the creation of thousands of jobs. Militant provided the political leadership of the anti-poll tax movement which brought down Thatcher.
We participate in the National Shop Stewards Network a rank and file movement of trade union activists. The Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an alliance with the RMT trade union (which is officially affiliated to TUSC), other individual trade unionists, various left groups, anti-cuts campaigners and individuals who just want to fight back. TUSC is a coalition, united around a basic programme which all its members can agree on, based on trade union principles of socialism and solidarity. Decisions at a local and national scale are taken by consensus.
The Socialist Party takes part in TUSC because by coming together we have an opportunity to present the socialist, no-cuts alternative to as wide an audience as possible. In the council elections in England last year, TUSC provided the biggest ever left challenge to Labour. In May, we aim to stand 100 parliamentary candidates, including Swansea West and 1,000 council candidates in England. Not bad for an organisation that has only been in existence for 4 years!
Q: You’re really pushing the Anti-cuts message; to locals out there who don’t know Socialist policy, what do you hope to achieve on a local level aside from fighting cuts? What will a vote for you and TUSC do for the ward, the city and the TUSC cause?
We talk a lot about fighting cuts because cuts to services pose such a threat to the quality of ordinary people’s lives. Cuts to the NHS threaten the health of our communities, cuts to education threaten our children’s futures and if we don’t take a stand now then, in a few years’ time council services, as we know them, will cease to exist.
But you’re right, there is much more to a socialist programme than saying we’re against cuts. The Socialist Party wants to see ordinary people freed from spending all their time struggling to make ends meet, which is why we have a programme of demands including raising the minimum wage, reducing the working week and taking the giant companies that dominate our lives into democratic, public ownership – that would include the power and energy companies and utilities and the banks.
Standing in one council election in Swansea might seem a far cry from these ambitious aims bit we are part of a far wider movement and we’re putting down a marker for the future. The Labour Party has given up all rights to be considered a workers’ party with their slavish copying of Tory policies. Their collapse in Scotland is a taste of what’s to come elsewhere in future. Workers desperately need a new mass party of their own; TUSC offers an opportunity to build such a party. Every success, even every vote for TUSC is a step along that road.
Locally, a TUSC councillor would be demanding investment in housing – renovation and building of quality council housing. We would put the case for bringing the services that the Liberals and Labour have both outsourced back in house and planning them for the needs of the local community not to make profit from parasitic private vultures. We would argue for the participation of local people and council workers in improving and expanding services for all our benefit.